Six Nights Without Electricity

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What our thermostat read the moment the power came back on

What steals your joy? What ruins your day? What overwhelms you? And would not having electricity in your home for six days straight be an answer to “all of the above”?

For those of you who know our story, I am not ask those questions hypothetically.

Due to epic winds that battered Michigan last week, the power went out at our house on Wednesday March 8th and it did not come back on until Monday March 13th.

Six nights without power, totaling 127 hours.

But I’m not writing this blog to complain or to remind everyone that a billion people around the world don’t have electricity to start with. I’m writing for another reason.

Because during that power outage, God taught me a lot.

To explain what I mean by that, I need to take your eyes off of March 2017 and look into eternity. Here is what Jesus said:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3)

That is the future for the children of God. And with this reality in mind, here is a quote from theologian Gordon Fee from his book God’s Empowering Presence:

Such future-oriented people live in the present in a way different from the rest . . . so confident of the future that they can pour themselves into the present with utter abandon, full of joy and peace, because nothing in the present can ultimately overwhelm them. 

I love that quote, although it convicted me big time. Because I don’t live like that. I want to. But I don’t. So I thought I’d invite you to be convicted as well! 🙂 So here a question for you to reflect on: To what degree do you experience life that is full of joy and peace, because nothing in the present can ultimately overwhelm you?

In other words, no matter the struggle… the diagnosis… the loss… the relational problems… the uncertainty… the unmet expectation… nothing in the present should ultimately overwhelm us because of our inheritance of Heaven.

And not only that, but we should be filled with joy and peace and live our lives with utter abandon. Once again, that is the goal and I am far from living that way 24/7.

Going back to the power outage this past week, I became convinced more than ever of the truth of this Scripture: And Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:13).

God wants us to be like little children just like my three incredible daughters Faith, Evelyn, and Elizabeth (ages 9, 8, and 6).

When the power went out, yes it disrupted their lives, yes it made things more complicated, yes it kept them from doing some of things they wanted to do that week. But here is the key: The girls were so confident in Kellie and me — that we were a good good father and mother — that they had no fear, no worry, no concern. They weren’t overwhelmed by the power outage. Not by a long shot. Instead they were full of joy and peace.

In fact, as I was talking to Evelyn (age 8) just after we lost power on Wednesday, I told her I wanted her to pray that we would get our power back on (because she is a prayer warrior even at such a young age). She replied, “I’m not sure I want to pray that dad. Because if we get our power back, then we won’t get to have a sleepover at Grandma’s!” 🙂

And sure enough, we not only had one sleepover at Grandma Linda’s we had five more sleepovers at Grandma Kopp’s. In their eyes, we should lose our power more often! 🙂

As I reflected on the power outage and how the girls handled it, I realized God wants us to have that same level of fearless faith and complete trust in Him.

Even when things don’t go right.

And in writing that I realize sometimes things go really wrong. Thankfully, they didn’t in this case. Even though our house got down to 45 degrees, it didn’t get cold enough for our pipes to freeze and burst. And when the power came back on, our furnace fired right up.

But sometimes things really do go wrong. You know that. I know that. And the reason they do isn’t because God isn’t a good good Father, but because we live in a spiritual battle, far from Eden. In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis wrote, “Enemy occupied territory – that is what this world is.”

So when things go really bad, I cling to this verse: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose… (Romans 8:28).

Our Father in Heaven doesn’t cause the bad things that happen. But when they do, He is always at work. And good will ultimately come out of every bad thing. Because God is good.

***This coming Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church is going to be a special one for a number of reasons: it’s the final day of our Family on Mission series (I can’t wait to preach my sermon!)… it’s Pledge Sunday for our future building… and it’s an all-church party & celebration. We are praying that over 200 people from our “immediate” and “extended” church family COME to church at 10:30am… and then STAY for the party! Lunch is being catered. Plus, there will be fun for God’s “children” of all ages! More info at tevchurch.org***

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How a Broken Kitchen Faucet Became a Blessing

20170306_084141I am hoping the title of this blog grabbed your attention. 🙂 Because that is exactly what happened this weekend. In the midst of a disaster of a home repair project, God taught me a lesson about thankfulness that I wanted to share with you.

I’ll be the first to admit I am not a handyman. 🙂 My dad was able to do every kind of home repair project you could think of, but unfortunately those skills and abilities weren’t passed down to me.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised that a minor home repair that ought to have taken about an hour to do this past Saturday turning into a 20-hour monster project that lasted through Monday. 🙂

It was one of those plumbing projects where pretty much everything went wrong than could have went wrong: faulty shut-off valves, water spraying everywhere, a kitchen sink that the previous homeowner glued down with “Liquid Nails” for some reason, and more.

By noon on Saturday things had begun to unravel and I knew my weekend was going to be spent in the kitchen with work clothes on. I had about a one-hour long “pity party” as the project began and then I got to work.

Not just the work to fix the problem but the work of thanksgiving.

Sometimes being thankful is easy. When everything is going great in life, gratitude just kind of bubbles up in your soul.

But other times being thankful is hard work. Because you need to choose to shift your thinking and count your blessings, instead of being consumed by the negative and the things that aren’t going right. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said we need to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Here is one example of the hard work of thanksgiving… because of a faulty shut-off valve under our kitchen sink, I had to shut off the main water supply to our house on Saturday around noon. That meant we had no running water for the better part of that day. And boy oh boy did that disrupt our lives!

So it would have been EASY to stew about not having running water. But instead I felt a nudge from God, reminding me that 780 million people around the world don’t have access to clean running water – not for just for 10 hours on a Saturday – but for their entire lives. So I began to count my blessings. The blessings of running water and beyond…

…Like the blessing of friends. I was able to borrow some power tools from a friend who attends our church. And then later on that day he came over to help because I was way over my head. And he stayed until almost midnight on Saturday and came back the following day for several more hours. (Thanks Jeff!)

And I counted my blessings of having a kitchen sink itself. Because on Sunday morning before church, the sink project was far from finished and I needed water to prep breakfast. So I was forced to rinse off hardboiled eggs in our bathroom sink. As I did so, I began to thank God for a blessing I never counted once in my life prior to that moment: having a kitchen sink and faucet in our house. Like many things in life, that was something I just always took for granted.

So throughout the weekend I continued the hard work of thanksgiving. Because frustration and agitation were continually knocking on the door of my mind. And sometimes I let them in. And the only way I could kick those thoughts out was to be thankful. To count my blessings.

Like being healthy enough to do this project in the first place… like carrying the porcelain sink to the trash (I never would have thought it weighed so much!). And having a PT Cruiser to drive to the hardware store (3 different times!). And for money to be able to purchase the parts I needed.

I write this blog to encourage you and to encourage me to count our blessings today. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frustrating things of life. To focus on the negative stuff. To allow our joy to be stolen from us.

But the reality is you are blessed…and I am blessed. Blessed beyond belief. So take some time today to reflect today on the ways God’s has blessed you, the big ways and maybe especially the small ways that are so easy to take for granted. Like having access to clean running water. And a kitchen sink.

***A classic story in the Bible is often called the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” But there’s a better title, a more accurate one. It should be known as the “Parable of the Prodigal Father” once you understand what “prodigal” really means! (Hint: the key is found in this verse from the story: “everything I have is yours” (v.15). Because the father in the parable didn’t just say that to his son. God the Father is saying the same thing to us! My sermon this Sunday is titled The Parable of the Prodigal… Father???” Please join us on March 12th at 10:30am (EDT) at The Eastside Vineyard Church. And be sure to “spring forward” on Saturday night so you aren’t an hour late for church! More info at tevchurch.org***

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Choosing Evelyn Over a TV at Sam’s Club

Our culture is a culture of distraction. And many times the distractions of the world keep us from loving those right around us. Let me explain…

On February 19th our daughter Evelyn turned 8-years-old! She wanted a birthday cake from Sam’s Club so while her two sisters were at Grandma Linda’s one evening, Kellie and I drove with Evelyn to go pick one out.

20170218_122515When you walk into Sam’s Club you are greeted by row after row of big screen TVs (I remember back when I was a kid how it was such a big deal when our family upgraded from a 19” to 25” TV set. That was a HUGE size back then. How things have changed!)

So ten seconds into our journey into Sam’s Club I see the TVs and thoughts flooded my mind that went something like this: Peel off from Evelyn and Kellie and check out those TVs for a bit. Then you can speed walk to the back of the store and catch up with them in a few minutes. And Evelyn will be looking through the cake book anyway, so she won’t miss you.

As quickly as I entertained those thoughts I felt a nudge from God to resist that temptation, because that’s what it was. A temptation. Not a temptation to do something horrible. But a temptation to embrace distraction.

So I made the choice to stick with two of the most important people in my life.

And then God ambushed me.

Just a few seconds after I made the decision to walk past the TVs and head back to the bakery together, Evelyn reached over and grabbed my hand. And she and I held hands all the way back to the bakery. It was a long walk to the back corner of the store and I was thankful for the long walk because my little girl wanted to hold her daddy’s hand the entire way!

When we got the bakery she let go of my hand and started going through the cake book. After much thought and deliberation, she landed on a Minion cake. 🙂

dsc03190-4But as she was looking at the various cake choices, my mind was not focused on cakes but on these thoughts: I almost missed that gift. I almost missed the opportunity to hold the hand of my little girl because I almost chose to look at a bunch of TVs that I had no intention of buying! 

I share that story to challenge you as I challenge myself. Because that was one opportunity I chose right. But there are many times every day I am sure I choose wrong. I choose to be distracted by things of the world instead of “loving my neighbor” whether my neighbor is Kellie, our daughters, other loved ones, and more.

I am guessing you are in the same boat as I am.

So may you and I ask God to speak to us in His still, small voice all day long. So that we would be tuned into it and be lead by it and not miss opportunities to show God’s love in practical ways to others. And to experience God’s love in small ways and big ways. Like the small way — which really was a big way — of holding the hand of someone you love.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. – Galatians 5:6

***Sons and daughters of the King of the Universe. That is how the Bible describes us! The Apostle Paul wrote how we are “co-heirs with Christ” (really think about what that means for a minute!). But there is an enemy of our souls that doesn’t want us to embrace those truths. Satan – the first orphan – wants us to live like orphans instead of living as children of God. Please join us at 10:30am on March 5th for my sermon titled “Living Like Orphans in God’s House.” More info at tevchurch.org***

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Isn’t Lent Just a Catholic Thing?

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-9-56-06-amLet me ask you a trivia question. What date does Easter fall on this year? Maybe you knew it was April 16th right away… but maybe you didn’t.

Bonus question: what date does Easter fall on in 2018? (I am guessing every person reading this would need to “Google” the answer to find out its April 1st. And no, that is not an April Fools joke. 🙂 Easter really does fall on April 1st in 2018!

The reason I asked those two trivia questions is to prove the point of this blog. Because the dates of Easter (and Good Friday) are moving targets each year, it’s easy for them to sneak up on us. So we often aren’t prepared spiritually to celebrate two of the most significant events in the history of the world.

And then when you factor in how normal it is to have an overloaded schedule — how being “busy” is a badge of honor — it’s easy to treat Good Friday and Easter as nothing more than speed bumps in our hectic lives. Where we might slow down enough to go to church both days, but that’s about it.

That’s why the season of Lent is critical.

But that statement leads to another question: isn’t Lent just a Catholic thing? As a kid growing up, I thought it was. So every year during the 40 days of Lent, my dad, mom, brother, and I ate fish on Fridays that we bought at the fish fry at our home parish of St. Ronald’s (and as a teen I remember we went to St. Blase in Sterling Heights since we thought their fish & fries were worth the drive down 15 Mile!). 🙂

So back then I used to think Catholics “owned” the season of Lent.

I was wrong.

While the Catholic Church celebrates the season of Lent, so do many Protestants including Lutheran, Episcopal, churches in the Vineyard movement, and more.

Lent isn’t just a Catholic thing… it’s a Christian thing that all followers of Jesus can participate in to prepare themselves spiritually and physically for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Since the time of the early church, Christians have used the 40 days prior to Easter as a time of preparation and reflection, a time to live differently.

My hope is as a result of reading this blog, you’ll want to do the same. And to help you in that process, I created a handout called Experiencing Lent. We pass out free copies of it at our church but I wanted to share it with y’all!

Here is what you’ll find in its 16 pages:

  • A Day-by-Day Bible reading plan (there are 2 options to choose from)
  • Ways to “Fast” during Lent
  • Perspectives on Prayer
  • FAQs about Lent
  • Discussion Questions to do individually, as a family, or with friends

Click HERE for your free copy. Print it off, read it over, and hit the ground running when Lent begins on March 1st (Ash Wednesday).

And one more invitation I wanted to pass along. An invitation to PRAY LIKE NEVER BEFORE during Lent. Please consider joining us at our 24/7 Prayer Room which runs from Feb. 26 to Mar. 5. Click HERE for more info and to sign up for a two-hour slot. You can pray by yourself, with others, read from Psalms, listen to worship music on your iPod, “Pray in Color” using Scripture-themed coloring books, and more.

However you do it, may you press into the season of Lent like never before. And as a result may you experience Good Friday and Easter Sunday like never before.

***At our church we love to say “God is Good.” And there are ton of Bible verses that back up those words. But I am guessing you are in the same boat that I am. We believe God is good. But we don’t believe it as deeply and as completely as we should. And that is what I’ll be preaching on this Sunday. Because God IS Good. In fact He is EVEN BETTER than you think He is!!! My sermon is titled “God is Better Than You Think.” Please join us on Feb. 26th at 10:30am. The Eastside Vineyard Church gathers inside Shelby Jr. High (51700 Van Dyke // 2 blocks north of 23 Mile). More info at tevchurch.org***

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The God Who Changes Bus Routes

1209142011“God is a dreamer and He is looking for people who will dream His dreams with Him.”

That quote is from Dreaming by God by Bill Johnson and that is what this blog is about.

First, I am going to share one of my God-sized dreams hoping it inspires you to begin dreaming your own.

Back in 2010 when we were in pre-launch mode of the church, Kellie and I began praying and dreaming about what it would become. Even though we knew we were going to start out as a portable church, we looked into the future and dreamed about having a food pantry and clothing closet on-site at our own building.

We began sharing this dream with the core team of volunteers that began to jump on board to help make this church happen.

One day we arrived home to find a care package on our porch. One of our core team members dropped off a box of things he was donating to our church and he included a map. A SMART bus map with the words “location location location” hand-written on it.

In the care package I found a letter he wrote explaining why he included the map in the care package: he said if we wanted to have a food pantry and clothing closet at our permanent facility, we ought to keep this map in mind. So when the day came for our church to purchase a building, we ought to do so along a bus route, so that those in the greatest need would have the easiest access to our church.

I held onto that map since 2010 as a tangible symbol of our dream. And yes it’s the map in the picture at the start of this blog!

A key verse that defined our church from the very beginning is Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” The Apostle Paul is telling Christians in the province of Galatia that everything they do ought to be rooted and grounded in their faith in Jesus Christ AND that their faith in Jesus should be expressed by showing God’s love in practical ways to their community.

And if Paul were writing a letter to the church in America, he’d say the exact same thing.

Since 2010, that dream has gotten even bigger. Right now we are in the middle of a Giving Campaign called Family on Mission. So buying a 24/7 ministry facility is on the near horizon for us! (In fact, our goal is to be in a building by THIS Christmas… if not before).

So even though we are currently still a portable church, we want our future building to be used by God to bless our community in ways that would go far, far beyond a food pantry and clothing closet. That we would have the reputation that our sister church in Cincinnati has…

Kellie and I lead Vineyard 101 in our home a few times a year. It’s a way to introduce people to the church and invite them into our lives. One of the things we typically do in Vineyard 101 is show a history video of the Vineyard movement.

screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-5-16-05-amWhile there are a ton of great moments and sound bytes on the video, one of them stands out above the rest for me. Charlie Hines (Worship Director – Vineyard Cincinnati) shared a story about a man he noticed in their church lobby, a guy who definitely looked new.

Charlie approached him to introduce himself and hear his story. Here is what the man said:

“I lost everything. I just got out of prison. And the guards told me that when I got out, to come to the Vineyard because it’s a safe place and they’ll take care of you.” And I was just honored and humbled to be in a church that has that kind of reputation.

I want OUR church to have that kind of reputation!

God is called many things in the Bible. The God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). The Lord that heals (Exodus 15:26). The God who provides (Gen. 22:14).

I have been dreaming about a new name for God: The God Who Changes Bus Routes.

A while back Kellie, the kids, and I were at Lakeside Mall. I realized that there is a bus stop for SMART buses right outside the door of Sears. And I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if God did that for our church! If we had a bus stop literally 20 feet from our church’s front door!

As I prayed about that, I sensed the still, small voice of God tell me this… That when we purchase our building, sure it would be ideal and our first choice if it was located along an existing bus route.

But it wouldn’t have to be.

Because the local government officials and “powers that be” for SMART buses would see how much good our church is doing for our community, that it would compel them to create a NEW bus route that would go right by our church. With a bus stop located right in front of it.

Imagine that for a moment. Dream with me.

And may this blog inspire YOU to dream YOUR God-sized dreams. May you dare to dream. But don’t just think about your dreams. Write them down. So you have a written record of the faithfulness of God when your dreams come to pass.

Get out a piece of paper and label it “Dream List” and begin to write. And here is the key: don’t triage it before you write it. In other words, don’t only write down the dreams that you think sound spiritual enough. Write down every dream you have, from the “fun” ones to the “sanctified” ones. Places you’d love to go on vacation… People you’d love to see healed…. Prodigal sons and daughters you’d love to come “home”… A book you’ve love to write and get published… Something wrong in the world you’d love to see made right… you get the picture.

“God is a dreamer and He is looking for people who will dream His dreams with Him.”

***What is your mission in life? Why do you exist on this planet? And why does your church exist? And how does Satan try to keep us from pursuing all of the above? The “Mission” in our Family on Mission series is not just to buy a church building. No more than the mission of the soldiers on D-Day was to simply establish a beachhead at Normandy, France and stop and celebrate and think they won the war. Whether or not you go to our church, our “mission” is the same: in grand terms is “on earth as it is in Heaven.” (see Matthew 6:9-10). So whatever is on earth now, that will not be in Heaven, needs to be challenged and changed and transformed. And God calls US and equips US to do exactly that! Please join us at The Eastside Vineyard Church. for my sermon titled On a Mission From God. Feb. 26 at 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***

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Prayer Establishes “Air Superiority” in Spiritual Warfare

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-11-17-38-amWhat if prayer impacted things way more than we typically think it does? What if prayer truly is our first line — not of defense — but offense in the spiritual battle? And if those things are true, how should pray differently?

That’s what this blog is all about!

This past November, Kellie, myself, and 4 others from our church attended something called a “Learning Community” in Ft. Wayne. This event was championed by a group called 3DM whose goal is to help churches like ours make “disciples” in the fullest sense of that word.

During one of the sessions a military analogy was shared. The pastor explained how the first step in a conventional war is never to send in the ground troops. If you went that route, it would be a bloodbath. Instead the first steps in a war are two things.

First… disrupt communication behind enemy lines.

Second… establish “air superiority.”

For example, The Gulf War back in 1991 began with a bombing campaign that lasted over 40 days. Over 88,000 bombs were dropped across Iraq. As a result, communication was crippled as was their military infrastructure. Once “air superiority” was established and utilized, then the ground troops were sent in.

The supernatural realm mirrors the natural realm in ways we can only imagine, where PRAYER is the mechanism that establishes “air superiority.”

So if we don’t pray, but simply go about our day and attempt to show God’s love to a hurting and broken world, we can expect to get supernaturally blasted and bombed.

Without prayer, our “flank” is exposed. Exposed for the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy (see John 10:10).

And let me make that last paragraph more personal to you. So you understand what’s at stake. By saying your “flank” is exposed… what if your “flank” is your health… your spouse… your kids… your parents… your pastor… your church?

So let me ask you a question. How is your “prayer life” going nowadays? How much passion do you have when you pray? How much belief do you have in the power of prayer?

Not happy with how you answered those questions? Here are some next steps to give your prayer life the shot in the arm it needs…

A Man Named George. I recently read a biography on the life of George Muller. He fed, clothed, and cared for orphans and relied on prayer for God’s provision like you would not believe. That book really built my faith! Click HERE for the version I read.

Lighting Fires. This coming Sunday ask a member of the prayer team at your church to pray for you, to “light a fire” inside of you when it comes to prayer. So that praying goes from being something you feel you ought to do to something you are compelled to do.

24/7 Prayer Room. Out of all of the amazing things that happened at our church last year, one of the absolute highlights was the 24/7 Prayer Room. Since we are currently a portable church, God provided a storefront space we rented for a week and people from our church (and other churches across the area!) prayed in 2-hour time slots around the clock, 24 hours a day during the final week of Lent.

Well, the Prayer Room is back! This year we’ll be praying as Lent begins from February 26 to March 5. Click HERE for more info or to sign up for one (or more!) slots. May you say YES to this opportunity to PRAY LIKE NEVER BEFORE!

By the way, if spending two hours straight in a “Prayer Room” sounds intimidating, I could introduce you to dozens of people at our church who thought the same thing when we promoted the 24/7 Prayer Room last year. But they took a step of faith, signed up for a time slot, and I heard the same story again and again… the time flew by for them!

There are many ways to spend the time: reading from Psalms in the Bible, playing worship music on your iPod, “Praying in Color” using Scripture-themed coloring books that we provide, writing out prayers on the brown “wallpaper”, and on and on!

May God use this blog to stir something deep inside of you when it comes to prayer. And may you trust that your prayers offered in faith are doing things in the spiritual realm that you can only imagine on this side of Heaven… like disrupting communication behind enemy lines and establishing “air superiority” in the spiritual realm.

***”The fRamily of God” is my sermon this Sunday. And no there is no type-o in the title! When we use the word “family” we picture a mom, a dad, and their kiddos. That is how we define family. And that is true… that IS a family. But is there a more true truth? Is there a deeper truth to what a family is? Most importantly, is that how Jesus defined “family”? (Hint: the answer is NO!). And what is the mission He calls His family to? Please plan to join us on February 19th at 10:30am at The Eastside Vineyard Church. And be sure to bring your “thinking caps”! More info at tevchurch.org***

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Why I Still Don’t Know Who Won the Superbowl

It’s Tuesday morning. Two days after the Superbowl. And I still don’t know who won the game. I don’t know if it was a great game or a blowout.

Let me be clear… I love watching football. As someone born and raised in southeastern Michigan, I am a long-suffering Lions fan! 🙂

But this year I didn’t watch the Superbowl. Instead I spent the last two days at the Capuchin Retreat Center. Why? Because I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to “fast” from the game.

20170207_083842

What was “on” our TV the night of the Superbowl

Now that might sound a bit odd to some of you, so let me explain…

This season is a unique one in the life of the church that I pastor. A few weeks ago we launched a sermon series called Family on Mission that doubles as a Giving Campaign so that we’ll go from being a portable church to having 24/7 ministry facility to call “home.”

The key verse for the series is “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). And I have been challenging everyone — including myself — to really press into what this verse is saying.

I want to build my faith — in things like my ability to hear God’s voice and what I really believe is possible with God — and I want the same for adult, teen, and child who calls our church “home.”

So this past Sunday I encouraged everyone to fill out a Fasting Pledge Card to commit to fast from at least one thing for the next 40 days. Throughout the Bible, when people really needed God to show up… when people needed to hear from God… when people needed supernatural breakthrough… they fasted.

In my sermon I shared this passage to explain the “why” behind fasting:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…– Hebrews 12:1-2

The author of Hebrews is saying we should throw off everything that hinders us. Not just the “sinful stuff” but any and all thoughts, words, and actions that take our eyes off of Jesus.

As I prayed about how to fill out my Fasting Pledge Card, I heard the “still small voice” of God give me the word “distractions.” I knew that for me it meant the “usual suspects” of sports talk radio, surfing the internet, watching YouTube videos, and channel surfing on the TV. Those things have been hindering me from truly fixing my eyes on Jesus. So God was inviting me to “throw them off.”

The question was when to begin fasting from them. Technically, Day 1 of the church-wide 40 day fast was Monday morning. But as I continued to pray I realized God wanted me to start it on Sunday night which meant I wouldn’t be watching the Falcons and Patriots or any of the commercials (which are often more entertaining than the game itself!).

Let me be clear… that was a word for ME. I’m not judging anyone who spent Sunday night eating pizza and watching The Big Game. In fact, I’m sure it was a ton of fun! And God likes it when His kids have fun. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is serious business in Heaven.”

But that being said, I felt like God was inviting me to “sacrifice” a night of TV-centered fun and fellowship to focus on Him instead. So that’s what I did.

I hopped in my PT Cruiser after church on Sunday, headed up Mound Road and spent the last two nights at Capuchin. Walking the snow-covered trails. Reading my Bible. Praying. Reading other Christian books. Napping. Playing worship music on my iPod.

And I loved every minute of it.

It was the perfect way to kick off the next 40 days.

So that’s my story. That’s how God is leading me to live out Hebrews 12. What about you? What is hindering you? What is keeping you from building your faith? What is distracting you from hearing God’s voice? What is keeping you from taking your personal spiritual growth more seriously?

Pray about it. See how the Holy Spirit leads you. And why not join me in “fasting” from those things over the next 40 days? You won’t regret it. 🙂

P.S. Click HERE for a copy of the Fasting Pledge Card we gave to everyone. Print off a copy, fill it out, and put it on your fridge as a reminder of what you’re fasting from.

There is a key theme found throughout the Bible that never gets preached on: the theme of “Blessing.” Think about it… have you EVER heard a sermon on blessing? And yet, it’s everywhere in the Bible. God blessed Adam & Eve (see Gen. 1:28). God blessed Abraham (see Gen. 12:1-3). And God blessed people at the end of time (see Rev. 22:17) and everywhere in between! But what does it actually mean for God to “bless” someone? And why does it matter? My sermon this Sunday is titled “The Father’s Blessing” and we are going to dig deep into this theme. Bring your “thinking caps” and come spiritually hungry to The Eastside Vineyard Church. February 12th at 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org**

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